The Mexican government has honored an Anglican priest in recognition of her work in helping abused women in the United States.
The Rev. María Elena Daniel Cristerna received the Ohtli Award at the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, in early May.
Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ACNS that Cristerna received one of 10 awards given to “Mexicans and friends of Mexico who have dedicated their lives and professional activities, to forging a path for the Mexican community abroad” as part of the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo.
The awards are given by the Mexican foreign ministry’s Institute of Mexicans Abroad to recognize and honor Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latino leaders who have dedicated their lives and careers to blazing a trail abroad for younger generations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as they strive to achieve their dreams. It is one of the highest and rare distinctions given by the Government of Mexico.
A teacher before her ordination, Cristerna was born in Nueva Rosita in the northern Mexico state of Coahuila. She immigrated to the United States in 1970 and became an American citizen in 1984.
She studied at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and was elected counselor of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (2006-08).
“She specializes in working with women who have been victims of any type of violence, helping them get psychological support,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ACNS. “She is a big supporter of gender equality and women’s empowerment. One of her main goals is to empower women through education.”
She has now returned to Mexico where, after ordination in 2006, she took on responsibility as assistant rector of two parishes: El Buen Pastor (the Good Shepherd) and the Resurrection in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, in the Diocese of Northern Mexico, alongside her husband, the Rev. Miguel Cristerna.
Ohtli is a Náhuatl word that means “pathway” or “camino” in Spanish. The award consists of a medal, a silver rosette, and a diploma.
Cristerna is passionate about empowering women, and recently represented the Anglican Church of Mexico as part of the Anglican Communion’s delegation to the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.
She established a shelter in 2014 for women, sometimes with children, who need to escape pain and fear in their domestic environment. The multipurpose shelter provides a place to sleep, eat, and recuperate from physical and emotional wounds. It also hosts prayer groups, retreats, and conferences in which women learn about their right to stand up against domestic violence. The shelter also provides a loving environment for children and helps to build their confidence.
Adapted from ACNS